We took our time in responding to the Alexandra Wallace anti-Asian YouTube video because we wanted to see the whole story unfold before casting judgment. About a week and a half ago, Wallace, a UCLA student, publicly posted a video blog on YouTube. It was meant to be a humorous rant about what she’s observed about Asian students on the UCLA campus.
What it actually was, though, was offensive to many. She described her peers as “hoards of Asians” and complained about Asians talking on their cell phones in the library. She apparently realized that some of her peers were checking in on their relatives in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — and in her video, Wallace comments that her peers should take their calls outside, as to not disturb others in the library with their problems. To top it off, Wallace mockingly acted out how she sees Asians talking on their phones: “Ohh. Ching chong ling long ting tong.”
Her video went viral and the whole country saw it. Wallace reportedly received death threats over it. Many called for her expulsion from UCLA. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block stated that he was appalled by the video, but also called for greater civility on campus.
Wallace later issued an apology. “Clearly, the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.”
In the end, UCLA decided not to subject Wallace to any disciplinary action because her video was protected by free speech and did not violate the school’s code of conduct. However, Wallace decided to withdraw from UCLA due to the harassment she received as a result of the video.
We waited to respond to Wallace’s video because we were hesitant to condemn her publicly. In moments like these, it’s easy to lash back and attack people, but is that how we move forward and gain the understanding of others? No. In these times, it’s much better for everyone to be empathetic.
Yes, we thought Wallace’s video was offensive and extremely insensitive, but we don’t think her actions were malicious enough to warrant death threats, the public posting of her personal information, or the harassment that her family received. She will feel the repercussions of what she has done for many years — her future potential employers will do background checks. This video and all the editorials written against her will come to light, over and over again. We don’t need to pile on more punishment.
So what is the right way to react? A lesson can be learned from many young Asian Americans who responded with humor instead of anger. Some posted parody video blogs of their own. Others wrote songs. Some have taken the opportunity to start calm discussions about stereotypes and what they mean. ♦